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Friday, April 19, 2024, 5:38 pm

Friday, April 19, 2024, 5:38 pm

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In Haryana, BJP rejigs caste mathematics

BJP
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The BJP leadership’s ongoing capacity to surprise both allies and adversaries is demonstrated by the secrecy surrounding the change of leadership in Haryana, where Nayab Singh Saini took over as chief minister from Manohar Lal Khattar. At a ceremony to inaugurate a new motorway connecting Delhi and Haryana, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had talked affectionately just a day before about their time spent together as RSS pracharaks. It could not have been predicted at the time that Khattar’s tenure as chief minister would come to an end in a matter of hours. The Modi-Shah squad has clearly had its eye on the ball at all times, refusing to let up even when they are leading their opponent by many goals, in contrast to the slumbering high commands of the family-run parties. In Haryana, a comparatively tiny state that sends 10 MPs to the Lok Sabha, the shift in power signalled advance preparations for the Assembly election that is scheduled for later this year, as opposed to the Parliamentary election in April or May.

A Jat vs non-Jat competition has always been presented by the state’s caste system, with Jats controlling the political landscape. Even among the governing party circles, there was a growing sense of boredom after Khattar, a Punjabi Khatri, served as chief minister for the previous nine years. Khattar was an honest and well-meaning leader who was first elected only on the basis of his close connection with Modi, but he was never able to develop into a model politician who could skillfully manage inconsistencies and ease personal grievances to project charm. He was despised by the Jats, but his integrity and incorruptibility won over the non-Jats. During Saini’s ascent inside the RSS-BJP hierarchy, he served as his mentor. Saini is an OBC, which is why Khattar’s selection as his successor was approved by the top BJP leadership. Anil Vij, a senior leader of the RSS-BJP and the Khattar cabinet’s home minister, thereby lost his long-standing goal to become chief minister. Khattar’s selection by Modi for the Chief Minister position nine years ago crushed his hopes. Now that a more junior leader had taken over for the top position, Vij felt ashamed. Even though Vij was scheduled to be sworn in as part of the new administration, he chose not to attend the ceremony as a sign of dissent. He is hardly expected to attempt to topple the Saini administration, though. Five MLAs from former deputy chief minister Dushyant Chautala’s Jannayak Janta Party joined the BJP on Wednesday, demonstrating the Saini government’s majority.

The three main Jat-headed parties in Haryana, the JJP of Duyshant Chautala, the Congress led by former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, and the Indian National Lok Dal of Ajay Singh Chauthala, are splitting the Jat vote, suggesting that the political landscape in the state is changing. Although Jayant Chaudhary has pockets of support outside of his home region of Jat-dominated western UP, the BJP would hope that his inclusion in the Rashtriya Lok Dal in the NDA will lessen the wrath of protesting farmers. With the OBC chief minister leading the coalition and the Jat vote divided into three segments, the BJP may believe it can defeat anti-incumbency against nine years of the Khattar administration.
Naturally, Dushyant Chautala would feel deceived, particularly after having given the BJP support when it was short of a few MLAs during the previous Assembly election. However, Chautala misinterpreted the tea leaves and claimed several Lok Sabha seats in order to maintain the state alliance. Sensing his bluff, the BJP called it and forced him out of office by rallying five of his MLAs.

The BJP’s decision to appoint a Saini to lead the government would cause former Congress chief minister Hooda’s caste calculations to go horribly wrong overnight. In Haryana, non-Jats significantly outnumber Jats, while Muslims are mostly restricted to the Gurgaon-Rewari region. It is noteworthy that the introduction of reservations by the Mandal Commission has significantly accelerated the castefication of society and added emphasis to the electorate’s fragmentation into small caste silos.
The framers of the Constitution had anticipated that caste would become less significant in politics over time. Tragically, the spread of democracy has inadvertently led to a greater caste-based division of society. The social and economic upheaval taking place in Haryana politics is reflected in the animosity between Jat and non-Jat, and the BJP hopes to take advantage of this in the next elections.

Abhishek Verma

 

 

 

 

 

 


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